The Placemat teaching strategy provides an opportunity for each student to record individual ideas while also working in a small group. It can be used to brainstorm ideas, record researched information, or analyse resources. Individual responses are shared with the group. After students share and discuss ideas, the group records agreed-upon responses in the centre of the Placemat.


  1. Divide the class into groups of four to five students.
  2. Provide each group with one large sheet of paper—the placemat—and a marker for each group member.
  3. Instruct each group to divide the placemat into five sections, with a central area and the same number of separate areas around the centre as there are members in the group.
  4. Instruct each student to claim a space along the edge of the placemat as their own.
  5. Ask students to record their ideas in their personal section first, without discussing them with group members.
  6. After individual ideas are recorded, provide sufficient time for each student in the group to share his or her recorded responses with the group without discussion or debate from the other students.
  7. Tell the groups to collectively choose the five most important/significant responses. Record them in the centre of the placemat. If pertinent, consider having the groups rank the top five responses in order of importance.

Important Considerations

Since this activity requires consensus building, as you introduce it to students remind them to respect each other’s ideas and values so everyone will be comfortable offering their thoughts during the activity. Students should be mindful that no one person does dominates the conversation. This way, the answers in the centre of the placemat truly represent the group’s collective findings.

The content in this section was sourced from: The Critical Thinking Consortium. (2014). Critical challenges across the curriculum, placemat activity[PDF].© 2003 Alberta Education. Retrieved from: